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A posture tracker that puts design over details

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A posture tracker that puts design over details

The Good The Lumo Lift goes beyond typical fitness metrics to measure your posture. It's also comfortable to wear and can even pass as an accessory.

The Bad The Lift app's offers too much design and not enough data.

The Bottom Line The Lumo Lift offers a fresh alternative to other fitness trackers, but its limited features will disappoint anyone who wants to track multiple metrics.

The Lumo Lift addresses a metric that few other wearable fitness trackers up to this point have, that being your posture. It does this by resting against your upper torso (or décolletage), using hardware sensors and algorithms to measure your body's alignment. Every time you put it on, you calibrate it, telling Lift what posture you want to maintain -- whether that's perfectly upright, or slightly slouchy.

Then, throughout the day, the tracker keeps track of how often you stay in that posture and when you deviate from it. You can see your progress, as well as your step count and distance, in the Lift app, currently only available for iOS.

Throughout my testing, I enjoyed wearing the Lift. However, be advised that it's up to you to tell Lift what posture you want, and you don't get any data on how to improve your posture. The Lift also doesn't offer sleep or elevation tracking. The device did at least make me more aware of how I sit and stand, causing me to sit up a little straighter at my desk. And I agree with Lift that walking down the street with my shoulders back and head up made me feel more confident.

The Lift costs $100 (which equates to about £60 or AU$107), which is on par with the Fitbit Flex, and even a bit cheaper than the $130 Jawbone Up. It also ships outside the US, but don't forget to factor in international shipping charges.

Just a note: because this device uses magnets and is meant to be worn on your upper torso, those who use a pacemaker need to check with their physician before using the Lift.

All about design 

What's unique about the Lift is that you wear it with a magnet, instead of clipped to your clothes or around your wrist. It's made up of two parts, the tracker and a small, square magnetic plate. The polycarbonate tracker houses the internal components, while the plate holds the Lift in place on your clothes. The entire tracker acts as a button that you press to program and use it.

The device is supposed to rest around 1 inch below your collarbone, with the tracker against your skin or an undershirt and the magnet plate on the other side. You can keep it hidden under your clothes, or keep it visible as a fashion accessory, just make sure it can rest close to your body. 

The Lift is made up of a tracker that sits against your body, and a metal clasp that rests on top of your outfit. Josh Miller/CNET

The Lift is made up of a tracker that sits against your body, and a metal clasp that rests on top of your outfit. (Josh Miller/CNET)



The Lift comes in three color options; white, black, and silver, and includes a black and silver metal plate by default. You can purchase packs of additional plates in bright or neutral colors for around $20. There's also an included separate rounded clip that's meant to be worn around a strap, such as from a bra or undershirt.

The tracker is small, about the size of two quarters side by side, and just a few centimeters thick. Though the tracker is as thin and small as it can be, it's still big enough that I could easily feel it under my clothes. I didn't notice it getting in my way often, but occasionally the strap from my purse or backpack would press against it.

You wear the Lift on your upper torso, just below your collarbone. Josh Miller/CNET

You wear the Lift on your upper torso, just below your collarbone. (Josh Miller/CNET)

There are a few a downsides to how you wear the Lift. Since it has to sit close against your skin to get accurate readings, you can't wear it with loose-fitting tops. Instead, you'll need to attach it to an undershirt or bra strap. Even wearing it with a fitted t-shirt, I noticed by the end of the day the weight of the Lift caused it to sag on my shirt, which looked bad and felt uncomfortable.

Lift's magnetic configuration gives you some room to personalize it, which is great because many other fitness trackers don't give that option. You can create your own magnet clasp using a strong magnet that you can find at most craft supply stores, and then add something decorative on top, such as repurposed piece of jewelry or a button.

The Lift comes with a magnetic (see a theme here?) charging cradle with two metal pins that connect to your tracker to charge it. It takes around two hours to full charge the Lift, and once charged, it will last around five days. Unlike other fitness trackers, the Lift doesn't have a LED display, though it does have an LED charging status light.

Perfect posture 

Lift is meant to be worn daily to track your posture and steps. You attach it to your clothing, finding the right spot based on your outfit, and get into the posture you want for that day. Then press the device twice to calibrate it, and it goes into what Lumo calls the "Align" mode. Lift will vibrate three times to tell you that it's taking a snapshot of your current posture that it will use as a baseline for the rest of the day. You can recalibrate Lift as often as you want, and it's encouraged that you use Align every time you put the tracker on or adjust its placement.

Once it's calibrated, Lift quietly observes your posture and motion throughout the day. If you want a more hands-on approach, Lift has a coaching mode where the tracker vibrates briefly when you slip out of your ideal posture. To start a new coaching mode, press and hold Lift for a few seconds until it vibrates once. Lift will then buzz every time you slouch, reminding you to adjust your posture. You can turn off the coaching mode by pressing and holding the tracker again until it buzzes twice.

The Lift acts as a large button that you press to use the device. Josh Miller/CNET

The Lift acts as a large button that you press to use the device. (Josh Miller/CNET)



According to Lumo, the Lift works by "detecting curvature at the top of your spine, in addition to the positioning of your shoulders, chest, and upper back." Each time you calibrate the device, it pays attention to how you're holding your body, and constantly checks that you're staying in roughly the same posture. The Lift is designed to track your upper body posture, including your upper spine, shoulders and chest. Lumo's other posture wearable, Back, can track lower body posture, including your lower spine and pelvis. It's worn around your waist and lower back.

It's really up to you to determine what your ideal posture looks like, as Lumo doesn't offer any suggestions. I understand that posture can be a very personal thing that's determined by your body's particular alignment, but I wish that the Lift included cues to get into a healthy posture, especially for people like me who are prone to slouching.

Step it up 

Lift also tracks each step you take during the day, and the total distance you cover, just like the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up. It's tough to say exactly how accurate these metrics are, but to test out the step counting feature, I wore both the Lumo Lift and my Fitbit One, which is designed specifically to track steps.

During one day of testing, August 7, 2014, to be exact, my Fitbit said I walked 10,007 steps and covered 4.11 miles. On the same day the Lift said I walked 9,534 steps and exactly 4 miles. That's not a huge difference -- just below 5 percent. I put both devices on at the same time and took them off at the same time, so the discrepancy could be due to how each tracker records steps. I wore my Fitbit One clipped inside my pants pocket, close to my hip, while the Lift was worn higher up on my chest. It could be that because the Fitbit was closer to my legs, it recorded more movement than the Lift.

I can't be sure if one tracker was more accurate than the other, but I'd say both the Fitbit and the Lift are completely capable of tracking your daily steps.

The Lift app 

The accompanying Lumo Lift app manages all of your Lift activity and it's available only for iOS for the time being. The company is working on desktop apps for Mac and Windows, due out this fall. Those apps will work just like the iOS app, showing you a dashboard of your posture and movement activity. Lumo also has plans for an Android app, but it won't arrive until at least 2015.

To start using your Lift, you'll need to set up it in the app -- it won't record any data until you do. The app then syncs data from your tracker over Bluetooth to give you daily reports on your activity. The app's main screen shows an hourly snapshot of your posture and movement.

Instead of showing you numbers right off the bat, the app gives you a status report with words. For instance, if you've had perfect posture and have been walking around in the last hour, the app will read "Your posture was Remarkable" and "You were Active." You can have Remarkable, Good, or Slouchy posture, and you can be Super Active, Active, or At Rest. Those statuses depend on how much time in the last hour that held a particular posture, and how much you moved. 

The Lift app shows your posture and activity stats, included the number of steps you take and calories you burn. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

The Lift app shows your posture and activity stats, included the number of steps you take and calories you burn. (Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET)


If numbers speak to you more than words, you can tap the screen to see more tangible stats. You'll see how many hours you've had good posture that day and how many steps you've taken. There's also the total distance, in miles, that you've traveled, and how many approximate calories you've burned. For each day, your goal is to have four good posture hours and walk at least 10,000 steps, and you cannot edit those goals. Coming from using a Fitbit, which lets you customize nearly every goal, it's a disappointment that I can't do that here. Beyond the home screen, the app doesn't have much else going on. One feature allows you to start a new coaching session and set the number of minutes you want to last. You'll see a few cheeky messages on the screen encouraging you to keep up your good posture or improve how you're sitting or standing.

There's also an hour-by-hour view, which shows your posture and activity status for each hour. You can swipe left and right to view your log from previous days. Lastly, there is a simple profile of your personal information, including name, height, and weight. 

The app has coaching sessions that help you stay in your desired posture. Josh Miller/CNET

The app has coaching sessions that help you stay in your desired posture. (Josh Miller/CNET)


While the app is pretty, with a minimalist colorful design, I wish there was more there. You can't drill down into your activity, seeing your posture or how many steps you took at specific hours in the day. There are no graphs or charts, just simple metrics shown on the screen. There's also no social aspect, meaning you can't connect with friends or other users to see their activity. Lumo plans to add additional features, including social interactions and posture-tracking over time, in the coming months.

In addition to seeing your daily activity in the app, Lift sends you emails when you meet certain milestones as well as a weekly summary of your activity. The emails are fun and informative, but there's no way to turn them off in the app, and I had trouble unsubscribing from the email itself.

Conclusion 

Amid of sea of fitness trackers, the $100 Lumo Lift offers a fresh perspective in a well-designed package. It's a versatile tracker that can be worn securely a few different ways, and it stays mostly out of your way.

The Lift is a great start, but it could use some improvements. The coaching sessions, while helpful, can get annoying with frequent buzzing. The app is too focused on design, not on function, with limited features and no way to drill down into your data. I also wish it offered posture tips -- such as how to improve it and what good posture looks like on variety of people -- especially considering that Lumo has been working on posture tracking for several years now with its earlier Back device.

After a few weeks of testing the Lift, I can't yet say that it made lasting impacts on my posture. However, it did make me more mindful of my posture while I wore it, and motivated me to walk and sit taller. In the same way that wearing a Fitbit on and off for the last several years has changed my habits to take the stairs more often, I can see the Lift slowly changing how I sit and stand for the better.

Sport: Fitness and wellness

Proficiency level: Intermediate/Expert

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